Chris Chapin: ‘Need for speed’ meets Jesus
By Doug Dowty
Chris Chapin loved taking the fast road everywhere: except to church.
Chris, 31, had two Ford Mustangs – a 1989 LX and a 1993 5-liter V8 GT – and a 2004 Suzuki GSXR 600 motorcycle filling up his parents’ Syracuse driveway.
“I had a need for speed,” Chris says. “I was that guy going 115 mph down I-481.”
He was also a black-belt sensei who had trained meticulously since 6 years old. He taught karate at a studio in Baldwinsville. And he took odd mall retail jobs – like American Eagle and Sunglass Hut — to pay for his expensive toys.
Chris had used his focus and drive to get him through Syracuse’s tough Fowler High School and life on the city’s North Side. But he knows now the biggest problem: “I was living for myself,” he says. “I wasn’t living for Him.”
Then he met his future wife, Katie.
She was a student at his karate studio. But he hoped for more, and she agreed to date him.
Katie was already going to the Vineyard Church. But Chapin retreated at first.
“You go, I’ll stay back,” he’d tell her. “I’ll sit in the background and do my thing.”
Chris says his girlfriend never pressured him: but she had a huge impact on his life anyway.
Katie was baptized in 2008. “I was excited for her, to come to Christ,” Chris says. But he still wasn’t convinced.
Still, he was certain about something else: he wanted to marry her.
When it came time to propose, Chris didn’t have the money. His decision was simple: he sold the two muscle cars and the motorcycle to buy the ring. He proposed at New York City’s Rockefeller Plaza a day after Christmas in 2009.
The couple had children and was happy. Chris even started going to church once in a while. But he hadn’t fully committed.
“I was busy, always working two jobs,” Chris says. “I wasn’t trying to make excuses, but…”
His wife’s steadfast faith kept working in him. Finally, Chris took the plunge himself in August 2014 and got baptized.
That experience convinced him he was called to something greater than he’d ever imagined.
He became very involved in church activities, like the Feed My Starving Children campaign, and asked pastor Gary Dawkins what more he could do.
Gary asked him to help co-lead the growing church’s social media accounts in the past year. And this summer, Chris became a pastoral intern at the Vineyard.
He’s given up his “need for speed” and his karate studio, but he’s found something else to go “all in” on. Chris says it wouldn’t have happened without his wife.
“I call her my guardian angel,” Chris says. “She’s the one who got me going.”